Richland Public Health officials have noticed an increase in reported cases of “whooping cough” (pertussis) in the county.

The Health Department’s Communicable Disease Unit is investigating the reports and collaborating with school officials and other health facilities to assure the health and safety of all potential exposures.

Pertussis is a bacterial respiratory disease that spreads easily and often begins with cold-like symptoms. The disease often proceeds to a severe, constant cough that ends with a “whoop”, primarily in younger children. Teens and adults may not have the “whoop”. The cough is sometimes followed by vomiting. Usually there is little or no fever. The disease is spread by close contact with respiratory secretions.

“Young school children are protected against pertussis if they have been immunized with the complete Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (DTaP) vaccine series,” said Martin Tremmel, Health Commissioner at Richland Public Health. “Parents should check with their medical provider to be sure that their children are up-to-date for their age on their vaccinations.”

“However,” Tremmel added. “the immunity may wane after the required kindergarten dose of DTaP and boosters shots are encouraged for older students, ideally between the ages of eleven and twelve.” These vaccines are available at the Health Department Clinic and area medical providers.

Patients who are diagnosed with pertussis and those persons who are identified as close contacts of cases should be given an antibiotic to decrease the spread of the disease. The antibiotic may not affect the symptoms and the cough of pertussis could continue for weeks.

Individuals who are having symptoms, or parents who have children with symptoms, should contact their medical provider.

Photo: Creative Commons License

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